A chill was sent through the skins of fans as they watched the San Francisco Giants bullpen blow what seemed to be a 2021 Opening Day victory. The Giants have had their bullpen struggles in the past, and after game one of 162, it appeared that this might be the case once more. Although Opening Day ended in heartbreak for Giants fans due to the bullpen imploding, things have since turned around for them, and all of a sudden, they rank amongst the best in the majors.
We can credit their success to the two key players at the back-end of the Giants bullpen, except for Matt Wisler, who has an ERA of about 96.4. Technically, Wislers ERA is 23.14, but if your ERA is over 20.00, it’s going to be subjected to some negative exaggeration. All jokes aside, Wisler had a nice Spring Training, recording 13 strikeouts in 8 1/3 innings. The slider specialist has already given up six runs through 2 1/3 innings in the regular season. So, two innings of shutout ball will cut that number in half, meaning, it’s nothing to worry about just yet. Let’s review the transformation from game one to game 11 for the Giants bullpen.
How it Started For the Giants Bullpen
Kevin Gausman was dealing to start, hurling 6 2/3 innings of two-hit, one-run ball. Then, Caleb Baragar came in and finished the seventh; all smiles for Giants fans. Now, welcome to the eighth inning. It took three Giants relievers to escape this inning. Matt Wisler, Jarlin Garcia, and Tyler Rogers combined to allow six runs to cross the plate.
The game would eventually return to a tie, and extra innings were added to the menu. Jose Alvarez entered the bottom of the 10th and proceeded to walk three batters. Game over. Simply put, it was not good. However you feel it best to describe the Giants bullpen after game one, all that was left to do was cross your fingers and hope that this wasn’t going to be the norm.
How Things Are Going
Things are going much, much, better for the Giants bullpen. They now have an ERA of 3.31, which is good for the sixth-best in the majors. Jake McGee, Caleb Baragar, and Jose Alvarez have all maintained their 0.00 ERA. Five relievers have allowed two or fewer hits on the year, and the one-two punch of Rogers and McGee in the eighth and ninth innings has been nasty, in a good way of course.
8th Inning Submarine Show
Since game one, Rogers has entered six games, and the Giants have won them all. Rogers has recorded five holds in that span and taken full control of the eighth inning for the Giants. The unorthodox delivery he brings with him to the mound can have batters looking like they’re swinging the bat while standing on ice. The perfect example of this is last night’s game vs. the Cincinnati Reds.
Rogers entered the game in the eighth inning with no easy task in front of him. He faced Nicholas Castellanos, Joey Votto, and Mike Moustakas. Rogers struck out all three Reds hitters swinging. Castellanos swung at a pitch at his eyebrows; Votto was fooled so badly that his swing appeared to be in slow motion, and then Rogers finished his night with an elevated pitch that Moustakas missed by nearly a foot. Three great hitters up, and three great hitters down. You can watch all three strikeouts here.
Following last night’s game, starter Kevin Gausman tracked down Rogers and had this to say: “You’re going to hit a lefty in the face one day, and the guy’s probably going to swing at it, which is crazy to think about.”
How the Giants Bullpen Closes the Door
Jake McGee has been absolutely dominant this year. McGee is currently tied for first in MLB with five saves and tied for first in the Majors with a 0.00 ERA. So, what’s McGee’s strategy for closing the door? It is simple. If they don’t get hits, then they won’t score. It has been a good plan for McGee thus far. Both right-handed and left-handed hitters own a combined 0.00 batting average off of McGee. Seven games, 6 1/3 innings, and zero hits allowed.
There is no need for opposing hitters to guess what’s coming when facing McGee. He is a fastball-slider guy and of the 332 pitches he threw during the 2020 regular season, only 10 were sliders. Basically, when you face Jake McGee, you’re getting a hard fastball. Nothing has changed from last year to this one—you are getting a heavy dose of fastballs.
What Else We Can Expect
The bullpen has been great, and the bullpen has been terrible. This is not exclusive to San Francisco because every team in the majors will have its good days and its bad days. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got a bat or if you’re taking the mound. With an electric 8th and 9th inning one-two punch, however, and the innings that the Giants rotation has been able to eat early in this young season, we can expect more good days than bad moving forward.
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